Room Experience: The Infinite Time And Place for Melodic Rock
Room Experience: The Infinite Time And Place for Melodic Rock
Room Experience is a Melodic Hard Rock/AOR Project built around the songs written by Gianluca Firmo, sung by David Readman from Pink Cream 69 and produced by Davide Barbieri and Pierpaolo Monti. Another Time Another Place is the name of their latest magnum opus, now available from worldwide through Art Of Melody. Featuring a collection of timeless songs that were completed right at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in Italy, Another Time Another Place by Room Experience is just the auditory remedy needed in these turbulent times. Highwire Daze recently caught up with Room Experience founder Gianluca Firmo for an interview to discuss the creation and discoveries found within Another Time Another Place. Read on…
Introduce yourself, tell me what you do in Room Experience, and how long the band has been together.
Hi Ken. This is Gianluca Firmo and I’m the songwriter and keyboard player in Room Experience. I also sing backing vocals and, occasionally, lead vocals (a couple songs on the first record, bonus tracks on this one).
The band has been together for 7 years now, since works for the first record started in 2013. We all consider it a real band and even if at the beginning it was born as a studio project and everyone has his own main band, I think we grew up to be a band in these years.
Where is the band based out of and what is the local music scene like there?
The band in basically based in north of Italy (mainly in Lombardy and Veneto) but some of the very welcome guests and, most of all, our singer David Readman live abroad. So I guess I should say we’re gipsies? lol
Anyway… the rock scene in Italy has never been mainstream, not even in its heyday, but thank God is very much alive, with a lot of bands offering beautiful melodic rock and some names that have become very important all over the world (Like Alessandro del Vecchio or Michele Luppi) and who raise the flag very high. There are also some very dedicated radios and even more dedicated fans who support the scene with unconditional love.
And the best thing of all: in the last years, despite of its “humble origins” people start talking about the “Italian scene” as something with its own personality and not only in comparison with the American, Canadian, British or Swedish scenes, which are making history since the golden days.
How did you wind up signing with Art of Melody Music/Burning Minds Music Group?
Well… In 2017 I was looking for a label to release my solo album “Rehab” and given my friendship with Stefano (the label promotion manager) I talked to him to release the record under the Street Symphonies brand. We quickly found an agreement and the album was released in 2018.
Before the release of my solo album, though, the label started growing as a group and more labels were gathered under the shield of the new Burning Minds Music Group. Art of Melody is one of them and since I have been able to appreciate the great job they did with my solo album, it was a natural choice to sign with them for the release of Another Time And Place.
Only, it’s Art of Melody, instead of Street Symphonies, because it is specifically dedicated to AOR. But both are parts of the Burning Minds Music Group.
Last, but not least… the label is 45 minutes from my home. Easy easy!
Is there any overall story or concept behind the Another Time Another Place title?
It is the title of one of the songs on the album, and in that context it only refers to the power of memories to bring you to another time and place in the blink of an eye.
But I chose it as the title for the album because I wanted to point out that this record is different from the first one. I mean, it’s still Room Experience, but in five years we grew older, we changed, we learned new things and we made new mistakes. So it necessarily is different and with its own personality. Also, even if I grew up with 80s music and I can’t think of any better music than that, years have changed the music and also ways to listen to music. And you can’t just pretend everything is still the same.
It’s a pure coincidence, instead, the fact that the record has been released in the middle of a pandemic event which turned the world upside down, but still I think it’s pretty ironic. And at the moment I hope the title is a promise for better days.
Select two songs from Another Time Another Place and what inspired the lyrics.
Ok! Not necessarily my favourite, but good for the inspirations behind the lyrics.
“Shout” was inspired by the fact that I’m sick and tired of hearing people complaining about everything that doesn’t perfectly fit their needs, like everything has to be granted for everyone. We live in a time where the belief of each one of us isn’t necessarily to be the belief of the whole world. People have given up the idea of self sacrifice to reach for their aims or to improve their lives and everything is demanded. This is awful. But it’s even worse when to support their own demands, certain people want to silence minds which don’t think alike. Well: that’s the case when instead of staying quiet I really Shout my thoughts out.
“The Miles That Make A Road” is in the same line of thinking as “Shout,” but this time it points out the importance of doing things and never give up. We can make mistakes and that’s fine: we’re allowed to. It’s part of living. But if we don’t do things and try our best, we’re just not living, cause in the end there’s always a reason to get up when you fall and start everything again, even when it looks so hard and so dangerous.
We need to walk the road of our life until the end, but we gotta do it mile after mile.
Who did the cover art for Another Time Another Place and how much influence did you have on it?
The cover of the first record (which you can see on the floor) had some closed doors that were about to open, because nobody could know, at the time, what to expect from a band like Room Experience.
Now everybody had been in the room and I wanted to show that there’s more, beyond it: another time and another place. And the image that kept coming back to my mind was the sight of an alley through the window of an abandoned room with a piano. So I asked for that to Antonella AstorI (Aeglos Art) who also took care of the covers of the debut record and of my solo album. We’re in close contact when she creates the cover art but the art is all hers: she comes up with some drafts; then we decide which one will be implemented to the final result.
In this case, her first drawing was wonderful, but a bit too abstract for my tastes, so I asked for something more “real”. And basically she came up with the cover you can see: we then had to work on small details.
It’s wonderful that I can rely on Antonella, because she’s very talented but also very patient with my request and so the dialogue is always open until the record is done. But, once again, the art is all hers.
How did David Readman of Pink Cream 69 become involved with Room Experience?
At the time we were deciding how to shape the record, David was one of the very few singers I was considering for the release: that because I wanted someone with a voice who could deliver the right attitude to AOR songs, since very often it’s a style too mellow for my tastes (might sound strange since I write a lot of ballads, but that’s it!). By luck, at that time David was also the singer for Voodoo Circle and Alessandro Del Vecchio, who is an awesome person and a dear friend, kindly put us in contact. David of course wanted to hear the material, before jumping on board, but it just took a couple songs to convince him. Now, I couldn’t think of a different singer for the band: his vocals are a trademark, by now.
Who produced Another Time Another Place and what was it like working with them?
Davide Barbieri and Pierpaolo Monti. And they also are part of the band. They’re experienced producers and since by now we are friends and we know each others very well, working with them is very easy. There are less discussions on what to do, what to change because we know what others want and we easily agree almost on everything. The few moments when we “fight” are part of healthy cooperation: each one brings some ideas in and sometimes ideas differs, so we sit down and confront till we decide which direction to go. For example, I wrote “A Thousand Lies” in the form of a ballad, and it was their idea to try to give it a “harder” edge: since I couldn’t imagine it that way, I said “ok…don’t touch the melody, but let’s work in the direction you suggest and let’s see.” Well… I’m so happy I followed their advice that I even wanted to sing it myself.
How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected the band and the release of your new album?
The only thing that really was affected by Covid-19, until now, was the final day of mixing sessions. Mix was already 90% ready and we wanted to seal it all together, so we delayed it a lot of time waiting for Alessandro Del Vecchio to be back from his tour with Hardline and later from the United States, where he also has a studio. So we agreed to close the mix on March 8. Well…around midnight on March 7 has been announced a total lockdown of Lombardy (the area where we live and which is where Covid-19 hit the hardest way). So we’ve been forced to fine-tune the mix from the distance, each one from his studio, with an 8-hours long video call, extreme file-sharing and feedbacks going back and forth, until we all were satisfied. And, since the name of the band is Room Experience, I guess it was an appropriate ending for the works! LOL
When you look back on your first Room Experience album, what do you think of it now?
I still like it a lot and listen to it from time to time. My aim with every record is always to have a variated selection of songs. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, because often people prefer to listen to records with a very defined mood. Instead, I prefer making records that you might want to listen to on different days, for different reasons, when you’re in different mood. Even just because there’s that one song that you “need” to listen to. I mean: you associate Barry Manilow to love songs just as much as you associate Rage Against The Machine to powerful angry songs. I would like Room Experience not to be associated with anything in particular and know that everyone can find at least a song he likes in its records.
So I can’t say which album is better between the debut and “Another Time And Place”. What I sure prefer in this last one is how Alessandro handled the mix and the master, because I believe this one has a more natural sound (which is what I always aim for and I’ve even tried it to the extreme with my solo record).
On the other hand, the first record featured “The Only Truth” which is one of my favourite songs that I have written.
Has Room Experience ever played live and if so, how did the show(s) go and what could one expect from a live Room Experience show? If not, any plans to play live?
Not until now. As I’ve said, in the beginning it was thought to be a studio project. Later, we had a lot of requests from people to go live, but we hadn’t really planned any live activities, nor got invitations from any festival, so it never happened.
We were much more looking forward for some chances to go live after the release of this new album, but at the moment it’s even hard to tell when live concerts will start back again and in which way, so it’s even harder for us to plan any live shows. Also consider that bands like Room Experience often perform in medium to small venues. I guess the only answer at the moment is: let’s see what life will bring.
If Room Experience could open for any band either now or from the past, who would it be and why?
Well…speaking for myself and on behalf of everyone (sorry guys! lol) that would be Bon Jovi. Beside being the band I’ve loved the most (I also like their latest works, even if they have clearly changed their style to a sort of pop) they’ve always had incredible live acts overall AND they would give us the chance to play in front of stuffed up arenas, even nowadays….who could hope for anything better?
You’ve contributed songs to Raintimes featuring Michael Shotton of Von Groove as well as the band Lionville. Did you ever meet any members of each band and what did you think of how the songs turned out?
I haven’t met Michael Shotton yet, even if I hope there will be a chance someday, and had the chance to meet Lars Säfsund at the Frontiers Rock Festival in Italy, back in 2017, while I’m friend with Stefano Lionetti. I think songs in both records have turned out in a wonderful way and “Empty Days” on Raintimes did surprise me a lot, because it was Michael’s idea to and make it a slow tempo. In my first demo, it was slightly faster and even if in the beginning I could hardly listen to it without thinking it “too slow”, after I definitely canceled from my mind the recollections of my old demo I think he had the right idea. The slow tempo fits the sad lyrics even better and Michael’s singing turned it into a very emotional song.
Are you involved with any other bands or projects outside of Room Experience?
II have a number of collaborations as songwriter with a few bands (one is Wheels Of Fire, the band of Davide Barbieri, my bandmate in Room Experience), but the only band I’m full-time involved in is Firmo and at the moment I only released an album in 2018 under that moniker: “Rehab”. That’s my solo project where I start from melodic rock to lean into other styles I like, such as pop-rock, hard rock, country, AOR, ballads….a big melting pot of all I like in music. I put it up because even if I’m not a technically trained singer and I couldn’t deliver all of my songs the way that is needed (especially those with a huge vocal range needed) I have fun singing my own songs in my own way.
What’s up next for Room Experience?
Hopefully we will be able to plan more after this pandemic event won’t be an emergency anymore, but until then we’re just enjoying the release of “Another Time And Place” and the beautiful feedbacks that we’re having either from people and magazines.
For the future, whatever it brings, there are still plenty of songs in the drawers that are waiting to be chosen for the next records and many more awaits to be written, because writing songs is something I’ll never stop doing.
Any final words of wisdom?
Wisdom? Me?? Nah…I stopped being wise at the age of 3.
I’d rather use the final lines to thank you for chatting with me and to thank all your readers for their patience to stay and read everything until the end and invite them to support the bands they like buying original music, especially now that live shows are not possible.
We’ll see you around!
David Readman: Lead & Backing Vocals
Gianluca Firmo: Keys, Backing Vocals & Vocals
Davide “Dave Rox” Barbieri: Keys, Backing Vocals
Pierpaolo “Zorro11” Monti: Drums & Percussion
Simon Dredo: Bass
Steve De Biasi: Guitars
(Interview by Ken Morton)
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